by Murtland Haley
The Guyana Gold and Diamond Miners Association has decided that it is time that President David Granger meets with his miners.
During an animated meeting held by members of the GGDMA yesterday at its North
Road headquarters, miners were asked by the President and Vice-President of the association, Terrence Adams and Andron Alphonso, respectively, to make suggestions on the way forward.
Previous attempts to engage the government and the Guyana Revenue Authority did not bear much fruit.
The miners agreed on a number of actions which they can take to have their voices heard and interests addressed which include, seeking legal action and a mobilised protest action.
However, the majority decided that as their first move, a letter should be posted and published in the media informing President David Granger of their concerns. It was agreed that Granger would be given two weeks to respond; failure to do so would result in a mass protest.
Some of the issues which will be highlighted in this letter would be that no consultation was held with miners before the announcement; the tax regime does not take into consideration the nature and culture of the industry, documentation and the 100 per cent increase in tributors tax.
According to Alphonso, the tax measures would have a number of implications such as a reduction in declaration, increased smuggling and a reduction in disposable income which would affect other sectors.
One miner took the floor and said that the new measures would not just affect mine owners but workers. “Each one of us knows this is a burden; it is a burden, not so much on me as the owner but more on the workers. I have no problem as an individual to submit my tax.”
He said that during the meeting with the GRA Commissioner-General, Godfrey Statia, he asked what would be the outcome if miners do not comply. According to the man he was told by Statia that an injunction can be filed in the High Court.
Another miner stood up and said that since the association was unable to make its case clear to the government then another attempt should be made as a matter of following proper procedure.
According to the Vice-President the meeting which the GGDMA and the Guyana Women Miners’ Organisation had with Finance Minister Winston Jordan and Natural Resources Minister, Raphael Trotman, was derailed by the presence of a small group of itinerant miners accompanied by Junior Minister of Natural Resources, Simona Broomes.
He said that all of the issues which were to be discussed barely got five minutes of attention in a meeting lasting one hour. According to Alphonso, the GGDMA and the GWMO were outnumbered during the engagement.
The association president said that if another meeting is convened and mischievous parties are invited he will refuse to engage. In fact, following that meeting, a letter was sent to Minister Trotman informing him that the GGDMA will not be sitting in any meeting where divisive groups are present.
In light of these developments, miners expressed, yesterday, that they do not feel as though the government is respecting them since no consultation was done before the new tax measures were announced.
Alphonso suggested that maybe some of the government officials should be taken into mining districts to experience first-hand the conditions under which miners have to work and operate. “Before you tax it, you should understand it!”
One miner who has spent years in the industry said that the government needs to understand also that gold is legal currency in the ‘bush’ since it is a form of barter with traders for goods. He said that this would make it difficult for miners to document expenses.
Another miner said that when he operated under the name of a company the tax requirements proved too much for him to handle and he decided to scale down to be a sole trader. “In doing the tax returns, it was too much; it was too hard and difficult because you have to justify most of the income.
“Let’s say you submit to the gold board; the gold board submits your declarations to GRA, you have to justify by receipts. It was very, very difficult because in mining there are a lot of loopholes whereby you might not be able to account for some of these expenses and in doing that I had to scale down from the corporation back to sole trader which worked out very well for us.
“Now without even going back to a corporation there are added taxes and I don’t know if all miners are aware of; it is very difficult to work. We as miners need to stick together and hold one head because we understand.
“We not only control the industry but understand how this industry works.”
Some of the miners even suggested slowing down production as a form of protest. However, the miners agreed that their first step would be to have a meeting with the President and if that effort fails, all miners countrywide would be mobilized to conduct a peaceful protest.
Under the new proposed tax regime certain goods and services will attract Value Added Tax; the tributors’ tax would be increased from 10 to 20 per cent and there will be a two per cent tax on gross. Added to this, miners will be required to file their income taxes at the end of the year.
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